Takata’s Tragic Airbag Mess – A Suggestion for A Safer Future

Takata’s Tragic Airbag Mess – A Suggestion for A Safer Future

November, 2014

Dear care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Takata’s Tragic Airbag Mess

Takata is going through a deservedly terrible time facing mounting financial losses and calls for Federal criminal investigation of tragic mismanagement decisions.  See excellent coverage athttp://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/08/business/criminal-inquiry-into-takata-airbag-allegations-is-sought.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0
Suggestions For A Safer Future

I would like to offer a silver lining of hope for positive changes for safety that may result from this tragic current reality.  With first hand knowledge, I can say that Takata has excellent scientists and engineers of integrity that can, and are needed to, advance safety with airbag technologies in and outside of automobiles.  For examples, think pedestrian protection outside autos and child protection inside autos.

A recent NY Times series of articles on falls among the elderly reminded me of a long gone pioneering leader in the development of airbags – Dr. Carl C. Clark that I had the privilege to work with at NHTSA.

The NY Times reported on CDC statistics as follows:“The dangers are real. The number of people over 65 who died after a fall reached nearly 24,000 in 2012, the most recent year for which fatality numbers are available — almost double the number 10 years earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And more than 2.4 million people over 65 were treated in emergency departments for injuries from falls in 2012 alone, an increase of 50 percent over a decade. All told, in the decade from 2002-2012, more than 200,000 Americans over 65 died after falls. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death in that age group.”

See http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/11/03/health/bracing-for-the-falls-of-an-aging-nation.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Aw%2C{%221%22%3A%22RI%3A8%22}http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html

I would add that an aging population is not just a problem in the U.S. but in Japan and other places around the world.

Eighteen years ago, and perhaps 300,000 American fall deaths of people over the age of 65 in the U.S. alone, the Baltimore Sun wrote an article about Dr. Clark’s prescient work.  

“As his grandchildren’s laughter filters through the screen door, Carl Clark talks about his commitment to cushioning life’s blows. Retired from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 73-year-old scientist is still advocating interior air bags for airplanes, trains and school buses. He’s promoting ,, exterior air bags that spring from auto bumpers. He’s even invented a wearable air bag that inflates to prevent broken hips in the elderly.

Clark has spent 35 years urging the use of air bags — a concept he helped develop in 1961. Now, faced by widespread alarm over air bag-caused deaths, his biggest fear is that people will disconnect the devices he’s worked so hard to give them.”

A Safer Future Is Ahead – But Why Does it Take So Long?
I have worked for many years with good scientists and engineers.  I have also seen too many bad management decisions in both corporations and government agencies that have caused too much needless death and injury to the public.  
Ralph Nader, in his new book “Unstoppable” recommends 25 Reforms.  One is that we “Allow taxpayers the standing to sue, especially immunized governments and corporations.”
Then maybe it would not take so long to save lives and prevent tragedies for people and organizations – and we would create a Safer Future sooner.


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